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The Senate Special Select Committee hearings into the Auditor General’s report on Visa, Nationality and Passport irregularities continued today at the National Assembly in Belmopan with the cross-examination of former Director of Immigration Maria Marin.


Marin has been in the hot seat for several years, since she was the Acting Director of Immigration during the period several scandals involving the questionable issuance of nationality, visas and passports broke out. Today, Marin had the opportunity to speak on many of the instances of alleged wrongdoing when she gave her testimony under oath. We’ll get to some of her statements shortly, but first the former Director gave her honest opinion of what needs urgent addressing at the Immigration Department. She opined that the whole passport system needs to go.


Senator Aldo Salazar – Chairman of Senate Select Committee


“Which of those recommendations would immediately or would eliminate some of the weakness that we can see now?”

 

MariaMaria Marin - Former Acting Director of Immigration


“We said it over and over again, Mr. Chairman at least when I was the Director. We need to replace the passport system at one point in time we spoke bout upgrading it but the fact is that we need to upgrade that.”


Senator Aldo Salazar – Chairman of Senate Select Committee


“Why?”


Maria Marin - Former Acting Director of Immigration


“Because it was not serving the purpose of security concerns”


Senator Aldo Salazar – Chairman of Senate Select Committee

 

“What would a replacement system do?”


Maria Marin - Former Acting Director of Immigration


“It would allow us to have verification, for example, opportunity with other relevant agencies because all of that was incorporated into the system, the IT manager and the IT section had incorporated that in the passport system we would be able to verify with Vital Stats, verify with social Security and the other relevant agencies so to a large extent that would help us.”


Senator Aldo Salazar – Chairman of Senate Select Committee


“So that would be your number one recommendation to replace the passport system?”


Maria Marin - Former Acting Director of Immigration


“That had been a recommendation from day one.”


According to Marin, the passport system is just one of the weaknesses discovered when she was at the helm of the Immigration Department, but despite their recommendations for more efficient structures to be put in place, the decision makers did not budge.


Maria Marin - Former Acting Director of Immigration


“We had done a detailed proposal of what it would entail to address the concern that arises as a result of that assessment and what it would cost we were in negotiation meetings with the IOM, with US embassy here in Belmopan, they had brought in a passport expert everything had been done, the resource allocation is what largely was missing. I remember going to a committee meeting with the committee of the enhancement of the revenue collection at one point in time we detailed to them where we needed improvement and how much of a difference it would make if we were able to or obtain to implement those improvements because it meant IT systems it meant several efforts and how that would have increased revenue like 40% to 50% so we indicated where perhaps we were collecting revenue of 7.8 million in the previous fiscal year with that implementation we perhaps would have increased it to 11 million but it just was not forthcoming.”

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